Interview: Linda Appel Lipsius, CEO + Founder of Teatulia

I had the pleasure of meeting Linda Lipsius after numerous mutual friends in Denver told us we should connect. They were right! I loved learning about Teatulia (featured in the Amazing Companies section of LIFE SMART) moreover, I loved learning about this inspiring woman and how she works to balance it all.

Read more about Teatulia here.

Interview: Linda Appel Lipsius, CEO + Founder of Teatulia- LIFE SMART by Carrie Dorr

CD: Where did your inspiration to start Teatulia come from?

LL: Honestly, I fell into it. I was working with my family’s business, Orange Glo International (yes, the infomercial guys) and 6 months pregnant when my friend, Anis Ahmed visited us in LA. He and his family had started an organic tea farm in Bangladesh (where he is from) and they were ready to explore bringing the teas to the US, so he asked me if I knew anyone who could do a market analysis for him. As we were in the process of selling our company, I knew I’d have some time on my hands and volunteered. That was 10 years ago. The more I learned about the conventional tea industry vis-a-vis what Anis & his family were doing at their tea garden, I realized that there was something there. They were doing it differently. Better. If I could tell the story, we’d have something special.

CD: Teatulia is much more than tea! You transformed a region in Bangladesh from wasteland to an organic tea garden and created a social enterprise by providing jobs to people in an impoverished region. Can you talk a little about this?

LL: All the credit goes to Anis, his brothers and his father who conceived of the whole brilliant thing. They created our 3,000-acre tea garden from scratch in the North of the Bangladesh (the Tetulia Region) - the poorest part of one of the poorest countries in the world - to provide jobs. Full stop. They also felt that they could stop and possibly reverse the environmental degradation that was occurring in the region as a result of rock lifting (harvesting rocks for concrete for construction that destroys the topsoil). On top of all of that, to support this massive organic garden, they needed organic fertilizer, so the established a cattle-lending program. Cows are loaned to women in the community then the loans are relayed with cow dung for compost. We are now employing 1,000s of women and men in Tetulia, we pay 36% above industry average, have regenerated the ecosystem and created a community of women entrepreneurs. On the US side, all of our packaging is compostable and biodegradable (as well as award-winning & yummy).

CD: How do you stay healthy (physically and mentally) while building and growing Teatulia?

LL: Exercise is my drug - running and yoga in particular. I carve out an hour most mornings to work out, both to keep me fit and - almost more importantly - to keep me sane. Also, I get up REALLY early in the morning so I can have a few hours to myself to think and actually get things done.

CD: You have two kiddos. Do you ever deal with mom guilt? Tips for making it all work?

LL: My evenings and weekends are devoted to my kids (another reason I get up so early).  I’m all theirs. Could I do even more and get more involved in their lives - probably, but I also know that working keeps me happy and engaged and I’d wouldn’t be as good of a mom if I wasn’t plugged into this. On the flip side, could my businesses have grown faster if I spent 18 hours a day on it? Absolutely. But the balance I’ve established keeps both aspects of my life - home & work - satisfying and happily moving forward (knock wood).

CD: Can you walk us through a typical day for you? What is the best part of your day?

LL:

  • 3:30am   Get up (after hitting snooze twice)

  • 3:50am Make coffee. Yes, coffee. Starbuck’s Pike Place coffee to be exact. Yes, Starbucks.

  • 6:00am Run or go to Yoga.

  • 8:30am Drop the kids at school.

  • 8:45am Get to the office for a blur of meetings, emails, meetings, emails, meetings & emails.

  • 5:00pm Get back with the kids to coach soccer, go to piano or any of the other assorted activities we make them do.

  • 6:30pm Dinner WITH the family followed by chill time.

  • 9:30pm Bed

CD: What did you learn from your biggest failure?  What would you have done differently?

LL: Don’t ever give away the farm. You don’t ever need to that to get a deal done. It might feel like you do, but you don’t.

CD: What was the best piece of advice you ever got? The worst?

LL: Best: Be authentic. Sounds corny, but it is true. People are so hungry for connection and authenticity - show enthusiasm, show fear, expose what you don’t know. Worst: Once you are out, you are out.

CD: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneur?

LL: Make sure your idea is truly awesome and that you are insanely passionate about it. Then talk to EVERYONE you can to get advice, connections and to course correct.

CD: Who would you most like to have dinner with?

LL: Alexander Hamilton.

CD: What's your favorite vacation spot?

LL: Devil’s Thumb Ranch